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How to Defuse an Inbox Hand Grenade

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This post will be short and sweet but speaks to something most leaders have to deal with – sometimes multiple times a day.

It’s that hand grenade that shows up in your inbox from someone (who usually doesn’t have all the facts), calling you out for something you did do, didn’t do or did wrong. And, of course, they CC the higher-ups just to ratchet up the pressure a bit.

It’s at that point that you have The. Urge. To. Kill.

Ignore it. Reacting to it is only going to make things worse. Your reactive response can lead to a flame war that you might regret for years to come. That urge is flowing from a primal part of your brain called the amygdala. It’s where the fight or flight response resides. Useful if you find yourself in the middle of the Amazon jungle. Not so much in the office.

Instead of throwing back your own grenade and risking further damage, defuse it with a calm and clear response.

Here’s how to do it:

Remember, it’s not personal, it’s business: Keep your response focused on the facts, not the personalities. Be civil, succinct and fact based.

Cover yourself: As cheesy as it is, if the grenade thrower CC’d the higher ups on the inbound, you need to CC them on the outbound. The loop has to be closed. If you keep it civil, succinct and fact based, you’ll come across as the adult in the room.

Take it offline: If your munitions expert insists on keeping the conversation going with the CC’s in place, take it offline. Call the other party and work things out. You’ll be doing yourself a favor (and them too, actually). The last thing you want to do is feed a public spat in view of your senior leaders.

How do you handle it when someone lobs a grenade into your inbox?

(Image via Kira-N /Shutterstock.com)

Executive coach Scott Eblin’s goal is to help you succeed at the next level of leadership. Throughout the week, he’ll offer his take on the leadership lessons in the news and his advice on your most pressing leadership questions. A former government executive, Scott is a graduate of Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government and is the author of The Next Level: What Insiders Know About Executive Success.

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